Needed: cars to fit all; evaluations of the 1995
Mazda Millenia and Chevrolet Impala SS; Evaluation by Maynard M.
Gordon (Dealer Business 9/94)
TOOLING UP THE EXPRESSWAY IN A SPANKING-NEW Chevrolet Impala
SS, we wrenched ourselves out of visions of motoring life in the
It wasn't as difficult as it sounds. We had just driven a
1995 Mazda Millenia. Like day and night, you say? From the
futuristic state-of-the-art Millenia to the bygone-era Impala.
From space-age styling for the 21st century to Cleopatra's barge.
From tomorrow to yesteryear.
A week in the Millenia, which became the Mazda flagship after
the Amati franchise was scrubbed, was like a vivid wake-up call.
Millenia, thanks to its unique Miller cycle engine and a design
that maximizes interior roominess, is a big leap ahead in the
For the hotly competitive $ 25,000-plus luxury compact
segment, Millenia delivers a bell-ringing package. Cockpit
layout, quiet but firm ride, leather seats equal to anything in
the segment, you name it, Mazda has not stinted and would have
blessed Amati dealers with an entry-level equal to any.
In fact, there are Mazda dealers out there who still think
Amati should be revived. But Mazda's Ford controllers, who marvel
at Millenia's breakthroughs and are applying as many as possible
to coming Lincolns and Jaguars, won't sit still for Amati II. "He
who pays the fiddler calls the tune," or some such.
American engineer Ralph H. Miller first developed the concept
of compressing intake charge and altering valve timing to achieve
higher output from less displacement, thus reducing fuel
consumption by up to 15 percent. Mazda added a Lyshholm
compressor to force larger amounts of air into the cylinders.
Both Miller-cycle and Lyshold-compressor are world firsts--and
frankly, guys, the Millenia S with the 2.3-liter 210-h.p.
Miller-cycle V-6 engine is a true delight to move.
"This is the only Japanese sedan that tells you its designers
were allowed to put their best work into production," says
Automobile Magazine. High praise, and deserved.
Mazda Motor of America President Kazuo (Sonny) Sonoguchi, who
is in charge of leading the auto maker out of a crunch which a
flood of restyled cars and trucks in 1992 only intensified, has
pitched his pricing strategy at being affordable to buyers aged
35 to 45.
The Miller-cycle Millenia S is stickered at $ 31,400, but
there's a base cloth-trim model with a normally aspirated
2.5-liter 170-h.p. V-6 at $ 25,995 (a leather-trim base car is $
Millenia, moreover, entered the world with a $ 329-a-month
lease package--an incentive Sonoguchi thinks will help sell
24,000 units this year, mostly in major metro markets. It's
priced to sell from the outset, and Mazda dealers are scrambling
for Miller-cycle S models, as might be expected from a dealer
body and owner field used to what the Germans call "etwas neues"
Mazda's boasts for Millenia include, by the way, smaller gaps
between door panels than Mercedes-Benz; manufacturing goals at
the Hofu II plant in Japan equal to that attained by the first
Lexus 400 (54 defects per 100 vehicles); rubber-mounted
windshield motor and wipers to reduce noise, and "touchbutton"
radio controls coupled with an octopus-like cupholder mechanism
that will thrill one-year-olds.
Turn now to the $ 23,611 Impala SS, also introduced this past
spring. Both the Millenia and Impala were black and came equipped
with leather seats, but beyond that, the differences were
humongous, even if both offered such givens as four-wheel
anti-lock brakes and dual air bags.
A Caprice derivative, powered by the 260-h.p. V-8 Corvette
engine, Impala appeals to upper-middle-class types who like their
wheels big, bigger and biggest. It springs from the Caprice line
that so many cops drive, but sports Impala reindeer logos on the
hubcaps, which decorate special 17-inch wheels and tires.
Even more distinctively, unlike the front-drive Millenia,
Impala retains the rear-drive transmission which allows optimum
towability and torque control. The thrust of the 5.7-liter V-8 is
obviously meant for Impala choosers, who want to seat six in
comfort while carrying all their luggage and even golf bags in
the trunk. The Impala bears a curb weight of 4,218 lbs., compared
to the Millenia's 3,216.
Sounds like a time warp, but it really wasn't, even after a
week in the Millenia. After all, this is a diverse world, and
different strokes for different folks do give life and the
marketplace its variety and spice.